PEOPLExpress Hires CEO, Sets Sights on 2014 Start of Service

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PeoplexpressLogoUpstart airline PEOPLExpress has hired a new CEO, with the airline expected to begin offering service out of Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport by the second quarter of 2014.

Jeffrey Erickson brings years of experience in the airline industry, with previous stints in Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Trans World Airlines and Reno Air. PEOPLExpress acquired four Boeing 737s from an Idaho-based charter airline in June, and though the airline continues to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation for final accreditation, the hope is to start service in 2014.

“We have been looking for someone with solid experience, especially in the areas of startup and funding, and Jeff certainly has that background and ability,” said PEOPLExpress President Mike Morisi. “He fits our culture perfectly. He has a great reputation in the industry, and we’re thrilled to have him.”

Morisi said the company still plans to operate its headquarters in Newport News. The company is currently operating the 737s it acquired as charter planes. The headquarters of that operation is still in Boise but is expected to transfer to the east coast as the startup progresses. By acquiring that airline, PEOPLExpress was able to secure a Federal Aviation Administration certificate to operate as an airline in the U.S.

“We’ll announce destinations soon,” Morisi said. A precise list of destinations and precise startup date remain unavailable.

Erickson said he has friends in the area and that he is excited to begin work here. He expects to be in the area as soon as next week.

“I’m excited because I think it’s an iconic airline brand,” Erickson said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to restart with an excellent, experienced team we have put together coupled with the plan to service these markets which really need it.”

PEOPLExpress has the same name as another airline that operated from 1981 to 1987.

Erickson said the peninsula offers an opportunity to provide service to a wide range of travelers, from the business class to military to leisure seekers. He said the airline will include first-class offerings.

“The focus, of course, is to service a niche,” Erickson said. He said he wants to bring “non-stop service, efficient fares, good schedules and full service” to the area.

The launch date for PEOPLExpress has crept forward as the airline starts. In January it was said that the airline could perhaps start by Memorial Day. Morisi said in January that the airline will fly 250,000 to 300,000 people in the first year that service is offered at the airport. He also said the airline is expected to bring up to 250 jobs at the airport.

Since then, the airline reached an agreement with Denver-based investment banking and growth firm Headwaters MB for that group to raise capital for the fledgling airline.

Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport lost a significant chunk of its business when AirTran left in March 2012. That move came after the low-cost carrier was acquired by Southwest Airlines in May 2011. That airline represented 43 percent of the traffic that came through the airport in 2011. The plan for PEOPLExpress is to “provide value-conscious business and leisure travelers the opportunity to visit destinations in major and underserved markets,” according to a news release announcing Erickson’s hire.

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